Red Sox




By Rich Levine

Okay, so Year One's a bust.

We now know that for sure.

In a way, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. I mean, we've been unimpressed by John Lackey for the better part of the last six months.

That's not to say Lackey's been awful. In fact, it's a stretch to even say that he's been bad. But, in his first season with the Sox, it goes without saying that Lackey's been average. He's had a few memorable starts like the near no-hitter in Seattle but he's never allowed us to build any consistent trust or confidence that he'll come through. He's found pockets of success, but never sustained it. He's just sort of rolled along. Not bad. Not great. Just average.

That's OK when you're Scott Atchison. Not when you're on the hook for high eight figures.

But much like last year's Celtics, with Lackey, we never felt comfortable rushing to judgment. Despite all his early-season inconsistency, we always held onto the fact that he was brought here to win in late AugustSeptember (and hopefully October). He was Schilling-lite. It didn't matter what he pitched like over the first few months if Lackey was winning meaningful games at the crucial moments, then all would be forgotten. Ridiculous amount of money well-spent.

Of course, now we can't say that. After last night's plop at the Trop, all we can say is that John Lackey's first season with the Sox is a failure.

There's no more waiting for the right time to evaluate his year, because that was it. That was the moment we'd been holding out for on the road, in prime time and Lackey with the ball and the Sox season in his hand.

That was his shot, and he didn't take it.

The funny thing is, as usual, Lackey didn't even pitch that poorly. He threw five solid innings against a very good line-up, had one rough inning and lost the game. He wasn't bad; he just wasn't good enough.

And he wasn't alone. Where was his offense, you wonder? Wasn't this more than only an important game for Lackey? Wasn't everyone's season on the line? Where's the criticism for David Ortiz and J.D. Drew going a combined 0-for-8? Or Boston's No. 1-5 batters going a combined 3-for-20? Isn't James Shields having a rockier year than Lackey? Why couldn't the Boston bats step up?

Fair questions. No doubt that everyone in the lineup (which only scored a total of nine runs in three games) deserves some heat, but when you bring in a guy for the money that the Sox did John Lackey, it's also fair to assume that when the season's on the line, three runs is enough. It doesn't matter if you're playing the '27 Yankees (which shouldn't be bad now, since they're all dead), a top pitcher in a playoff atmosphere needs that W.

Maybe you're a little more flexible if the guy has a body of work (in a Sox uniform) that you can look back on and stay optimistic, but because Lackey never truly fulfilled our expectations during the season's earlier months, he had everything riding on the home stretch. It wouldn't be enough to just pitch okay. He needed to be great. That was his penance. That's how he'd earn everyone's admiration, and really earn that cool 18 million check.

Well, maybe next year. For now, all Lackey's earned is a Nation full of concerned fans, half hoping that their 82 miilion man will turn it around next yearhalf terrified of where this team will be if he doesn't.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins


Report: Ex-Red Sox reliever Reed gets deal with Twins

He was dubbed "Closer B" by Red Sox manager John Farrell when acquired at the trade deadline last summer, now Addison Reed is "Closer B Gone" the Twins.

The right-handed reliever, 29, has agreed to a two-year, $16.75 million free-agent deal with Minnesota, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and reports. 

Reed began last season with the Mets and had 19 saves and a 2.57 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 games (27 innings) without a save as a setup man for Craig Kimbrell.  

Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration


Red Sox, Mookie Betts far apart on salary and heading toward arbitration

The Red Sox and star right fielder Mookie Betts intend to go to an arbitration hearing in February, and there were signs this was coming even a year ago.

Betts was the only arbitration-eligible player on the Red Sox who did not settle on a contract with the team on Friday, when a deadline arrived for all teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange 2018 salary figures. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Drew Pomeranz were the biggest names to avoid hearings.

Betts filed for a $10.5 million salary and the Red Sox filed at $7.5 million.  Betts and the Red Sox agreed previously that if no figure could be settled on by the Friday deadline, they would proceed to a hearing, assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran said. 

A three-person panel of arbitrators therefore is set to determine what Betts makes in 2018: either the $7.5 million figure the Sox filed or the $10.5 million figure Betts' camp submitted. The arbitrators won't settle on a midpoint for the parties. 

O'Halloran noted to the Globe there are no hard feelings involved.

Nonetheless, such a large gap would seem to provide incentive to settle. The parties technically could still decide to do so, but that would take a change of course from the present plan. The idea was to settle any time before Friday, and they did not. 

Betts is asking for near-record money for a first-year arbitration eligible player. Kris Bryant set the record Friday with a $10.85 million settlement.

The hearings can be difficult for player-team relations because teams have to make the case in front of the player that he is worth less money than he wants.

Betts, 25, hit .264, with 24 homers, 102 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .803 OPS in 2017, numbers that fell from his American League MVP runner-up performance in 2016, but were nonetheless very strong and coupled with first-rate defense.

This offseason is Betts' first of arbitration eligibility. In the first three years of service time in a players' career, there's no recourse if you don't like the salary a team is offering. Teams can pay players anything at league minimum or above. 

The only option a player has in those first three years is to make a stand on principle: you can force the team to technically "renew" your salary, which notes to everyone that you did not agree to the salary. Betts and his agents did that in 2017 when the Sox paid him $950,000, a very high amount relative to most contract renewals.

Some of the standard thinking behind forcing a team to renew a contract is that if an arbitration case comes up down the road — and one now looms for Betts — it's supposed to show the arbitrators that the player felt even in seasons past, he was underpaid.

Still, the Sox may have effectively combatted that perception by paying Betts almost $1 million on a renewal. Per USA Today, that $950,000 agreement in 2017 was "the second-highest one-year deal ever for a non-arbitration-eligible player with two-plus years of big league service." Mike Trout got $1 million in 2014.